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Middle East

Fighting intensifies as Syrian rebels close in on centre of Damascus


Heavy fighting continued in Damascus for a second day as street battles between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad inched ever closer to the city centre.

The Syrian capital has so far been spared the level of bloodshed seen in the likes of Homs and Aleppo during the two-year civil war. But witnesses said the fighting in Damascus this week has been at its heaviest since July last year. The clashes have been concentrated in outlying neighbourhoods such as Qaboun, Jobar and Zamalka in the north-east, as well as the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.

The activist group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said five people had died yesterday and that the worst violence had been in the city’s suburbs.

State-run television said rebels fired two mortar rounds at a bus station in the Qaboun neighbourhood, killing six people including three children and a woman.

Meanwhile Israeli television broadcast satellite images on Wednesday evening of what the Syrian government said was the weapons facility Israel targeted in an air strike last week. The images, which Channel Two said had been taken on Monday, showed the building intact. Israel has refused to comment on the strike.

The fighting in Syria, which began in March 2011, has left more than 60,000 dead, according to the United Nations.